In World War II, the Regiment was called out for Active Duty in August 1939 to guard vital points in Halifax and
other coastal areas in the province. In 1942, based on its leadership and performance, it was selected for
conversion to a Tank Regiment. This was accomplished at Camp Borden and Debert in time for it to sail overseas
on 16 June 1943 as the 23rd Army Tank Regiment (Halifax Rifles) and a member of the 2nd Canadian Army Tank
Brigade. While at Camp Borden, it was brought up to strength by the addition of armoured corps soldiers from
The July 2, 1943 edition of the Halifax Chronicle Herald carried photographs of 209 of its soldiers and listed their
communities 84 of which were Nova Scotia communities .(Annex B)
Less than 6 weeks after arriving in England, the commanding officer (Lt Col R.J. Colwell) announced that their
Brigade was being broken up for reinforcements and the Regiment was to be disbanded. Disappointment was
shared by Brigadier T.J. Rutherford, Commander Canadian Armoured Corps Reinforcement Units in England who
told them "nothing finer had come across the ocean as far as well trained soldiers were concerned but unfortunately
there were not sufficient reinforcements to support existing units". The Regiment was disbanded by 14 August 1943.
The Commanding Officer's final remarks to his soldiers were "Today the Regiment is disbanded but the spirit of the
Regiment will live on in the deeds that will be performed by its former members in the units they are reinforcing. The
honours they will win for other units will accrue to their old Regiment after the war and this history will not be complete
until this phase of the service of its members is duly recognized".
A detailed account has yet to be written of what happened to the six hundred and nine (609) other ranks and
thirty-eight (38) officers in the Regiment at the time as well as those previously posted as reinforcements. Some
went to Artillery, Engineer and Signals Regiments, Service Units, the RCAF and RAF, but the majority went to 31
Canadian Armoured and Infantry Regiments.
These soldiers fought as members of those units in Sicily, Italy, Normandy, North-West Europe and Germany.
Although they fought in every major Canadian Army battle in these theatres, the Halifax Rifles has no World War
11 battle honours. The Regimental Association is pursuing this with DND.
The Regimental History records three officers who on leaving the Regiment were singled out for important
Commands; Lt Col R.J. Colwell was given command of the First Hussars from London Ontario which he led ashore
in Normandy on D-Day, Lt Col J.M McAvity commanded the Lord Strathcona's Horse (RC) in Italy, Lt Col A.A.
Ernst commanded the West Nova Scotia Regiment in England. While on special duty in Canada the latter was lost
at sea in an air accident. "Ernst Avenue" in Halifax is named in his memory, the other two were decorated with the
Distinguished Service Order (DSO).
While research is not yet complete, forty-six (46) have been confirmed as Killed in Action, the first of whom was
David Alton Romans DFC killed with the RCAF in 1940. "Romans Avenue" in Halifax is named in his
memory.Wounded casualties have been more difficult to research. Eighty (80) have been identified but this figure
likely will exceed a hundred.
The personal account of one of Canada's outstanding soldiers, BGen S.V. Radley-Walters, CMM, DSO, MC, CD, is
relevant. He landed in Normandy on D day with the Sherbrooke Fusiliers Regiment (27CAR) and commanded a
tank squadron during the heaviest fighting in Normandy on through to Germany. "On checking regimental nominal
rolls from our unit's history, I recall that at one time my Squadron had 45 former Halifax Rifles officers, NCOs and
Troopers out of the 132 Rifles that had joined the Sherbrookes as reinforcements in England. I trained and fought with
these men through Europe and having lived with them for nearly 3 years there is no doubt in my mind that their spirit
and courage as warriors has lived on during the peace. Eleven remain in our European Cemeteries and many who are
alive today still carry the scars of war..